20 Most Inspirational NRIs
1. Narinder Singh Kapany
This Punjab-born genius is well-known for his contributions to fiber optics. Fortune magazine named him one of seven “Unsung Heroes” in their “Businessmen of the Century” issue. He is regarded as one of the founders of fiber optics, which revolutionized the way data is transmitted today. Kapany has played many roles in his life, including entrepreneur, philanthropist, and scholar, all of which have earned him significant international acclaim.
2. Salman Rushdie
This 67-year-old Kashmiri Indian author was born in Mumbai and is best known for his contribution to English literature. Midnight’s Children, his second novel, was awarded the Booker Prize in 1981. He also received the ‘Booker of Bookers award in 1993 for the same novel. The Times ranked him 13th among the 50 greatest British writers since 1945 in 2008. He began his career as a copywriter at the advertising agency, Ogilvy & Mather. He is also well-known for the controversy surrounding his book, The Satanic Verses. He has written eleven novels and several short stories. His works have been translated into more than 40 languages.
3. S. Chandrasekhar
He was born in Lahore, British India, and is best known for his mathematical theory of black holes, for which he received the Nobel Prize in 1983. The Chandrasekhar limit bears his name. His most famous work is on the radiation of energy from stars, specifically white dwarf stars, which are the dying fragments of stars. R. “Handrasekhar was a classical applied mathematician whose research was primarily applied in astronomy and the likes of which will probably never be seen again,” wrote J. Tayler in the Biographical Memoirs of the Fellows of the Royal Society of London.
4. Amartya Sen
This Indian economist and philosopher, born in Santiniketan, West Bengal, is best known for his incredible contributions to welfare economics, social choice theory, economic and social justice, economic theories of famines, and indices of the well-being of citizens in developing countries. His outstanding contributions to welfare economics earned him the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1998. He is the chancellor of Nalanda University and a Harvard Society of Fellows Fellow. He has also received international acclaim for his writing. The Argumentative Indian: Writings on Indian History, Culture, and Identity is one of his best books.
5. Vinod Khosla
Forbes Magazine lists Khosla as a billionaire. He is one of the co-founders of Sun Microsystems, which created the Java programming language and Network File System. Khosla Ventures was later founded by him. He was born in Delhi and went to the Indian Institute of Technology. He was instrumental in the formation of Daisy Systems and TiE. He has also been an active investor in environmental start-ups. Khosla has committed approximately $450 million of his personal wealth to various “green” initiatives such as ethanol plants, solar-power parks, and so on. His green investing has made him extremely popular in the global media.
6. Har Gobind Khorana
This Indian American biochemist shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1968 with Robert Holley and Marshall Nirenberg for deciphering the genetic code. Khorana, who was born in Raipur, Punjab, was the first scientist to chemically synthesize oligonucleotides. His contributions to science have been enormous, and he has received widespread international acclaim.
7. Rohinton Mistry
This internationally renowned author was born in Mumbai and received his BA from St. Xavier’s College. He later moved to Canada with his wife in 1975. In 1987, he released Swimming Lessons and Other Stories from the Firozsha Bag, a collection of 11 linked short stories. His second book, Such a Long Journey, was published in 1991 and received widespread acclaim both nationally and internationally. His other works were equally well received. His third book, A Fine Balance, is regarded as one of his finest works and was a Booker Prize finalist.
8. Pan Nalin
This award-winning film director, screenwriter, and documentary maker was born in Gujarat and is best known for his amazing and award-winning films such as Samsara, Valley of Flowers, and Ayurveda: Art of Being. He received international acclaim shortly after the release of his first film, Samsara, which earned him over 30 international awards. His other feature film, Valley of Flowers, was pre-sold in 35 countries and is considered a major underground hit. He was invited to join the delegation led by Mr. Amitabh Bachchan on the panel for the France-India Co-production Forum at Salon du Cinema in Paris. Indians, according to Nalin, are “hungry for good documentaries.” And we believe his amazing work is satisfying that hunger.
9. Venkatraman Ramakrishnan
This structural biologist, born in Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu, shared the 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Thomas A. Steitz and Ada E. Yonath, and was named “for research into the structure and function of the ribosome.” He is a member of the United States’ prestigious National Academy of Sciences. In 2007, he received the Louis-Jeantet Prize for his contributions to medicine. In 2010, he received India’s second-highest civilian award, the Padma Vibhushan, for his contributions to science.
10. Nair, Mira
This incredible filmmaker was born in Rourkela, Orissa, and began her career as an independent short-film maker before winning Best Documentary at the American Film Festival for India Cabaret, an investigative documentary about Bombay’s strippers. Mirabai is the name of her production company. Salaam Bombay! (1988), her first feature film, won the Golden Camera award at the Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Her most well-known works are The Namesake and Monsoon Wedding. In 2012, she was also given India’s third highest civilian award, the Padma Bhushan.
11. Anita Desai and Kiran Desai
This mother-daughter team is well-known for its exceptional writing abilities. The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai won the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Fiction Award in 2006. Kiran’s exceptional writing ability is inherited, as his mother, Anita Desai, has been nominated for the Booker Prize three times. Kiran has received numerous accolades from notable figures since the publication of her first book. Anita won the Sahitya Academy Award for her novel Fire on the Mountain in 1978, and The Village by the Sea won the British Guardian Prize. Anita is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
12. Manu Prakash
Manu was born in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, and earned a BTech in computer science and engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur before moving to the United States for his master’s and doctorate. Manu is a well-known investor who is currently an assistant professor of bioengineering at Stanford University. The inventions include The Foldscope, a foldable microscope that is simple to use and folds from a single sheet of A4 paper! This microscope costs only 50 cents (or Rs. 30). He also recently invented the water-powered computer. He designed a clock that is required in a computer using the unique physics of moving water droplets.
13. Kalpana Chawla
This lady does not require an introduction. She was the first Indian woman in space and the first Indian-American astronaut.. She was born in Karnal, India. In 1988, she began her career at NASA’s Ames Research Center. During her career and two space missions, she spent 30 days, 14 hours, and 54 minutes in space. She died, along with six other crew members, in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003. In her honor, India’s first weather satellite was renamed ‘Kalpana-1.’ She was an international role model for many young women and inspired many people to pursue a career in Aerospace Engineering.
14. Lakshmi Mittal
This business magnate is the chairman and CEO of ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steel producer. He was born in Sadulpur, Rajasthan, and received his B.com from St. Xavier’s College in Kolkata. In 2007, he was the richest man of Asian descent in the United Kingdom, and in 2011, Forbes ranked him as the sixth richest person in the world. He is also the 47th “most powerful person” on the Forbes list of 2012, and Time named him one of the “100 most influential people in the world” in 2007. He owns a 34% stake in Queens Park Rangers F.C. He has established the Mittal Champions Trust with a $9 million endowment to support ten promising Indian athletes.
15. Pranav Mistry
This 33-year-old computer scientist and inventor from Palanpur, Gujarat, is currently Vice President of Research at Samsung and the leader of the Think Tank Team. He has made contributions to wearable computing, augmented reality, ubiquitous computing, gestural interaction, artificial intelligence, machine vision, collective intelligence, and robotics. He was also named a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader for 2013. His groundbreaking ‘SixthSense’ technology earned him international acclaim. SixthSense is a device with a data projector and a camera that interprets human gestures.
16. Indra Nooyi
She is the Chairperson and CEO of PepsiCo, the world’s second-largest food and beverage company by net revenue. This Chennai native is frequently named to the list of the “World’s 100 Most Powerful Women.” Despite this, Nooyi is still fighting to “have it all” and maintain a work-life balance. According to Business Week, since she became CFO in 2000, the company’s annual revenues have increased by 72 percent and net profit has more than doubled. She was also named one of the Wall Street Journal’s 50 women to watch in 2007 and 2008.
17. Lakshmi Pratury
This powerful woman co-hosted TEDIndia 2009, was the host and curator of The INK Conference and founded Ixoraa Media. She hopes to strengthen ties between India and the United States through corporate, cultural, and media events. In 2010, Forbes Asia named her one of the “100 Most Powerful Women.” She was also a key figure in the American India Foundation, an organization that raised more than $30 million in five years for development activities in India.
18. Sabeer Bhatia
This Chandigarh-born Indian-American entrepreneur founded the Hotmail email service and Jaxtr. He grew up in Bangalore and received his bachelor’s degree from BITS Pilani. He was later transferred from BITS to the California Institute of Technology, where he graduated. With over 369 million registered users in 2011, Hotmail was the world’s second-largest e-mail provider. In 1997, he sold Hotmail to Microsoft for $400 million, and it was renamed MSN Hotmail. He also launched JaxtrSMS, a free messaging service. Draper Fisher Jurvetson named him “Entrepreneur of the Year 1997,’ and MIT selected him as one of 100 young innovators expected to have the greatest impact on technology and awarded him the MIT Prize.
19. Zubin Mehta
He is a world-renowned conductor who was born in Mumbai. This incredible orchestral conductor and musical director are best known for his stage presence. He is the Music Director for Life of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra as well as the Principal Conductor of the Valencia Opera House. His style is described as flamboyant, vigorous, and forceful. His name appears in the song “Billy the Mountain” on Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention’s 1972 album Just Another Band from L.A. In addition, he received a special award in Israel for his outstanding contribution to the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. He was also honored with the 2,434th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, putting India on the global stage.
20. Raghava KK
CNN named this contemporary artist from Bangalore one of the ten most fascinating people the world has yet to discover. He dabbles in a variety of genres, including painting, film, installation, multimedia, performance, and even his own wedding. He began his career as a cartoonist in Indian newspapers. He has given lectures at New York University and other art institutions around the world. He was invited to exhibit his work at the Carre d’Art Musee d’Art Contemporain as a guest of the French city of Nîmes.